Jim Clark: Trouble in paradise? Throw money at it – like the Democrats (opinion)
May 11, 2016
OK, I confess. I took a couple of weeks hiatus from Nevada's El Niño weather to enjoy the gentle breezes and warm waters of Hawaii.
Although formerly famous for its pineapple and sugar cane crops, Hawaii's agriculture is a mere drop in the bucket now, having been replaced by tourism as its main industry. Hawaii hosts nearly 9 million tourists per year, with each of whom spending an average of $182.60 per day.
With the demise of agriculture, Hawaii went from being a red state to being a very blue state. Its two senators, two congressmen and governor are all Democrats; the state legislature and Honolulu City Council are dominated by Democrats.
The population of the Aloha State (1.5 million) is about half of Nevada's, but its state budget ($13.7 billion) is almost 40% higher than ours, so lawmakers have a lot of money they can spend on social justice causes.
Where do all these revenues come from? Interestingly, Hawaii's real property taxes as a percentage of home value are the lowest in the nation at 0.28%.
Hawaii has no sales tax but every transaction of any kind (including a fee paid an official to marry you) is subjected to a 4% excise tax (4.5% on Oahu) and that brings in 68% of state revenues. The next biggest source (31%) is state income tax which runs as high as 11% on income exceeding $200,000.
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So what social justice issue most bothers Hawaii's liberal lawmakers? Homelessness. Yep, Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the nation, currently estimated at 7,620.
With a year-round daily temperature range of 72 degrees to 85 degrees where better to sleep under the stars? Tent cities, panhandlers and unshaven people wandering around is not good for tourism, however; therefore solons are torn between wanting to share the government's wealth and allowing the unsightly to hurt their main industry.
A couple of years ago beaches on Oahu's west coast looked like a tentmaker's convention; you couldn't get into public restrooms. This year they have all been "relocated" and the west beaches are nearly vacant.
A story ran in the Honolulu Star Advertiser describing a city council proposal to require wheel locks on shopping carts (installed at the merchant's expense) which would engage if the cart left the store perimeter.
Another story described pending state legislation which would give the governor an unrestricted $12 million to spend however he wanted in addressing the homeless problem.
State law requires homeless shelters to adhere to basic standards such as having "adequate bathroom facilities, storage for personal belongings (so they won't steal shopping carts) and partitioned sleeping spaces." Makes you wonder what the governor can spend the $12 million on.
Despite all of this taxpayer funded generosity, the Star Advertiser reports, "state statistics show that nearly 600 shelter beds are empty on any given night raising concern among lawmakers that shelters aren't doing a good job filling beds."
One legislator has introduced a measure to tie state homeless funding to unspecified "performance measures." Maybe the governor plans to have a daily happy hour with state funded mai tais so those homeless rascals will fill the empty beds.
The local American Civil Liberties Union publishes a voters' guide for the homeless on how to register to vote. For "residence address" the guide suggests a description such as "a bench at the east end of Ala Moana Park." For "mailing address" (precinct cards, absentee ballot, etc.), the guide suggests "a post office box, address of a friend or address of the homeless shelter."
Well, there you have it folks. If there's trouble in paradise, Democrats just throw money at it.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.